I've been thinking of some great practical tips for hiking with kids. I touched on them in my post about our Blood Mountain adventure, but here I'll break my ideas down into a basic list. Hopefully you will find them to be helpful! (photo by Billy)
1) Keep it simple. Especially at first, be sure to choose a hike that will be fun for everyone involved. There's no need to hike long distances or attempt anything too strenuous- just spending time outdoors is wonderful. As you and your children become more experienced, you will be able to select more challenging hikes, keeping in mind the skill and temperament of your kids. Remember though, that hiking with kids is ALL about the experience- not about impressive accomplishments. (photo by Billy)
2) Make sure someone knows where you're going, and be sure to check in with them when you get back. This is common sense for any hiking or camping excursion.
3) Think like a boy scout- be prepared. You don't want to be stuck with a bunch of unnecessary weight to carry, but there are a few things you should always bring:
- plenty of water - snacks - map - sunscreen - wet wipes or tissues, & bandannas or handkerchiefs - small first aid kit (especially disinfecting wipes, band aids, tweezers and a needle, instant cold pack, benadryl or similar, sting-eze or similar, something [hydrocortisone, Ivarest, calamine, etc] to relieve itching, and any specific medications you or your children may need.) - whistle(s) (a child can use it to call for help if he or she is lost) - bag for trash - your ID - camera (don't want to miss those great kodak moments!)
We also like to have lip balm, binoculars, a field guide (check out the great Pocket Naturalist guides from Waterford Press), flashlight (even if you expect to be back before dark), compass, pocket knife, natural bug repellent, rain jackets, hiking sticks, notebook and pencil, magnifying glass, dry socks, backpack carrier (for smaller children) and cell phone. (photo by Billy)
4) Teach your kids what to do in case they get lost. The main thing is to STOP- a child can easily wander farther and farther from the trail when they think they're retracing their steps. Tell them to look around carefully and call for you- you might be closer than they realize. If you don't answer, they should blow on a whistle- the whistle will be louder and carry farther than their voice. The whistle should be reserved for emergencies only- of course that's a hard rule for kids to follow, but do try. Tell them to be sure and WAIT THERE for someone to find them. Chances are you're not far away.
5) Dress appropriately. In winter, always have a jacket and dress in layers- you might be surprised how warm you get while hiking along, but you will want warmer clothes when you're stopped or as evening falls. Don't forget hats and gloves or mittens for everyone! In summer, wear lightweight clothing but again, have layers. Always wear appropriate shoes. Be vigilant about using sunscreen and if necessary, bug repellent (preferably natural). Also, it's a good idea to bring a change of clothes for each child. Leave those in the car, so they'll be ready after the hike- you never know how wet or muddy the kids will get! (photo by Billy)
6) Give yourself plenty of time, and remember to chill out. No outing with children goes exactly as planned, and hikes are no exception. Just follow their lead, and enjoy the ride! This is SO important when hiking with kids.
7) Stop frequently to sip water and offer snacks. A hungry child is a cranky child, and a cranky child isn't likely to enjoy the hike- not to mention being difficult to get along with! Kids need frequent fueling and rehydration, especially when they're active. Don't forget the adults, either- it's much easier to be patient, relaxed and clear-headed when your blood sugar is stable. (photo by Billy)
8) Leave no trace. Be sure to put all your trash in proper receptacles- which usually means packing it out with you. On the way back, a great activity is to collect all the litter you can find in a garbage bag, so you can dispose of it properly. Be considerate of other hikers. Try not to damage the plants or terrain too much. Oh, and be sure everyone uses the bathroom before you set out. ;) Even so, you might need to help a child relieve her or himself outdoors. If they need to poop and there is no privy, then it's best to use a small trowel to dig a hole first, and bury the poop. Camping stores sell lightweight plastic shovels for this purpose. Kids can pick the darnedest times to suddenly need to use the potty- don't let the prospect discourage you though; it's really no big deal.
9) Be aware of your surroundings. This is the number one safety rule, but it also enhances any experience outdoors. Teach your kids how to be aware, too. Notice the interesting and beautiful details around you, and point them out to the kids. Stop and listen when they point things out to you. Oh, and watch out for poison ivy!
10) Have fun! Relax, and enjoy this time with your kids. Be silly, have wonder, sing songs, examine nature, count things, pretend, talk, hike and love each other. Do some fun activities, if you wish- one fun list by Environmental Dad inspired me to create this list! Here, we like to combine our hikes with letterboxing. But whatever you do, be sure to relax, be flexible and ENJOY yourself!
So, quick recap: - Keep it simple. - Check in. - Be prepared. - Teach your kids what to do in case they get lost. - Dress appropriately. - Give yourself plenty of time. - Practice frequent fueling and rehydration. - Leave no trace. - Be aware. - Have fun! Got it? Great! Now go plan a hike today!
This is pretty cool- here's a brand new video from the Vistoso Bosses, a young group here in Atlanta that Billy's done a lot of work with. We LOVE these girls- they are talented, fun, hard working AND really sweet. They have a style and a great message that's all their own. I think they did a super job with the video- know anyone who would enjoy their music? Pass it on!
This is my backpack. This backpack joined my life back when I was in high school, lugging textbooks and art supplies through painted cinderblock halls in a suburb of Atlanta. I think I was 15? Anyway, it was a long time ago. This backpack went almost everywhere with me. It bore witness to love blossoming between Billy and me, even as it bore my belongings.
The spring break when I was 16, Billy and I were allowed to take a road trip to Charleston, SC to visit Billy's sister. It was a journey of magic, of discovery and delight. We had a blast, and one day while browsing the tourist shops I spotted an embroidered patch. My inner girl scout had an inspiration: I should collect patches for all the cool places I went! I could sew them onto my trusty backpack. It would be like earning travel badges. What fun!
Not every place I went had patches, but over time I gathered quite a collection. Each one tells a story, or more often several stories. It occurred to me recently that I should write these stories down, before I forget. Also, it would be fun to share some of my older pictures here on this blog. So, as soon as I can figure out our scanner, I'll be writing posts about "The Backpack", and the stories it tells. I look forward to remembering! :)
Wow, been neglecting things around here lately. Sorry 'bout that. Been getting a lot of housecleaning done, though! :)
Just a quick post for now: after Independence Day fun, Littleman asked me how fireworks are made. I went looking for more info, and found some cool videos (both from the Discovery Channel) about it. Enjoy.
Note: the fireworks portion of this one begins at 50 seconds (0:50) in.
Unless otherwise specified, all the photographs on this site were taken by me with my trusty little Nikon Coolpix 4200 point-and-shoot. The lens is getting rickety and the battery door is held on with a rubber band, but it's still working. If I manage to do any editing at all, it's very basic- I might crop or adjust the exposure a little, for instance. If you wish to reproduce any of my photos in any way, please just be courteous and ask my permission first. I'd be flattered. Thank you.